This week Foreign Secretary and lead Brexiteer, Boris Johnson took to the Brexit stage once more. It was briefed as an attempt to break the stagnation surrounding Brexit and to rally voters around a positive vision of a “liberal Brexit”. Yet, like so many Brexit speeches that came before it, the highly anticipated address from the Foreign Secretary seems to have fallen flat, with a general feeling of ‘was that it?’.
The problem was Johnson’s speech stayed remarkably light on detail. Viewers might have expected to walk away with a better understanding of and more confidence in the Government’s direction on Brexit, but most were left feeling no more clear on Brexit’s trajectory than they were before Johnson’s oratory performance. Indeed, the main point seemed to be public disagreement with May on the issue of regulatory alignment, which many consider crucial to fixing the Northern Ireland border issue. Johnson failed to offer a solution in its place. His message was one of optimism, but seemingly without any substance to back it up.
Despite his call for unity and an end to the ‘we won, you lost’ atmosphere, his speech has simply created even further divisions. The split is now between Remainers, Brexiteers such as Johnson and his media cheerleaders who continue to want to have their cake and eat it, and those Brexiteers like David Davis and, it is rumoured, Michael Gove, who think compromise may be needed to get a deal over the line.
If the Government truly wants to move the country forwards on Brexit, what is needed is not a collection of transparent platitudes. The Government must set out a clear policy direction and a concrete vision of what a global Britain post-Brexit will be in real terms. There will have to be compromises for any version of Brexit that might succeed, and no amount of rhetoric can hide that. It’s the Government’s job to decide what those compromises are, and then sell them both to the public and the EU.